We moved into a new house last year and when cleaning out the pool shed last weekend I stumbled across a report that was done by a business that handles swimming pool maintenance.

It checked different chemical levels and recommended adding certain chemicals.

I am assuming that the different things that need to be checked for swimming pools (pH etc.) and the different types of chemicals (chlorine, algacide) that should be used on a regular basis are finite.

I've never owned a swimming pool before and I have done a reasonable job of keeping it clean and clear, but would appreciate some advice on:

  • What are the different things I should be testing the water for regularly?
  • What chemicals should I be using to keep the water clean, prevent sickness and ensure the pump is working?
  • With the pool pump and filter, is it necessary to run this x hours a day to cycle the water through the filter even if the water appears reasonably clean?
  • I've never had to maintain a pool, but I know there's different types, as my uncle has a salt water pool, which he said is trickier to get set up initially, but easier to maintain in the long run. I don't know if there's other types, so this might not as easy to give a simple answer without knowing more.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 12:06

6 Answers 6


In my experience, most horror stories of pool maintenance are usually the result of neglect, or not paying attention to the instructions. It's not that hard, but expect to spend an average of 10-15min per day checking on your pool, adding chlorine, clearing out leaves in the skimmer, etc. Also, once a week, expect to spend some extra time brushing/vacuuming the pool and cleaning the filter.

As a first time pool owner, the simplest thing you can do is pick up a free pamphlet on pool care. Follow the instructions in the pamphlet, and make sure you stay on top of it. My Wal-Mart usually has pamphlets by HTH Pools next to their chemicals.

Start by getting a test strip kit. You dip the strip in the water and compare the colored pads against a chart. Pretty easy (unless you get into a fight with your wife about the shade of orange of the pH pad).

Make sure you pick a good test kit, which measures several properties of the water (should measure pH, stabilizer/CYA, alkalinity, hardness, chlorine). Cheaper ones will only measure a few properties.

Measure your pool every day or so. If the levels are off, adjust them by adding the appropriate chemicals. Just follow the instructions on the container. Most any chemical you need can be found at your local pool store, or Wal-Mart. Beyond that, I'm not going to repeat what you would find in the pamphlet. (Did you get one yet?)

One bit of advice that wasn't in a pamphlet: If you buy "stabilized" chlorine products, they will raise the level of stabilizer/CYA in the pool. If your CYA levels are already high enough, the stabilized product can push your levels over the top. If you aren't sure if the product is stabilized, look for the words Dichlor or Trichlor in the ingredients. Un-stabilized chlorine is usually Calcium Hypochlorite or Sodium Hypochlorite.

Beyond the chemicals, there will be some "mechanical" maintenance/care:

  • Dirt, pollen, and algae will naturally collect in all the crevices of your pool, so use a pool brush to break it up. Regular churning of the water (from brushing or swimming) will give the filter an opportunity to suck up the debris before it settles.

  • You will need a vacuum (manual or automatic) to suck up non-floating debris. 48 hours before vacuuming, shock the pool to make sure any algae is dead. 24 hours before vacuuming, add some clarifier to make the algae and dirt settle on the bottom (where the vac will get it).

  • Make sure your filter is clean. There should be a pressure gauge on the filter that will indicate when too much crud has built up in it (pressure levels will go up). At that point, you need to clean it. Some filters are cleaned by backwashing. Others have a cartridge that needs to be changed. The filter should come with some instructions on how to care for it.

  • Check the strainer baskets in your skimmer and pool pump. Larger debris like leaves and large bugs will collect there. Periodically shut off your pump and scoop the crap out.

  • A plugged filter or strainer basket will strain your pump, and maybe cause a burst hose (very bad). So, keep the water path clear.

  • If you have cold winters, make sure you follow the instructions on winterizing the equipment. I disconnect my pump and bring it indoors every year.

  • The only problem with this answer is the test strips - they are borderline useless. Don't rely on them. A drop count test kit is much more accurate - good ones like the Taylor or TF kits. Especially for tile or gunite pools it's critical to keep your balance right to prevent corrosion and test strips are simply not good enough to alert you to a problem before it's too late.
    – J...
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 21:55

This is the link you need: http://thepoolcalculator.com/ It describes basic chemistry, and has a calculator you can specialize for your pool.

I personally maintained my pool with bleach, borax, baking soda, and stabilizer for years. This is the cheapest way to go, but it's a significant time commitment.

Any pool supply store can help you get started, give advice, and sell you a test kit. You will want to use the one with the drops and the vials; the test strips are wildly inaccurate in my experience. The Taylor kits are widely recommended, but I've used the walmart ones as well. Also, if you decide to use the chlorinated tablets for convenience, be aware they add stabilizer (CYA) to the water, which affects how effective your chlorine is at killing the gunk it's supposed to target. Stabilizer is the one thing you can't really adjust for (other than draining your pool). As a general rule, if you have enough chlorine but still see yellow algae, there's too much CYA in the water.

You'll need to check the pool every day at least for chlorine and pH levels before letting anyone swim in it. If you go a few days without checking you're likely going to have to close the pool down to shock (over-chlorinate) and bring the pool back into sync. Ideally you'll fall into a fairly predictable rhythm of adding chemicals. At a minimum run the pump for an hour after adding chemicals. A log book can also be useful to track what you're adding to the pool regularly, under what environmental factors, and how that affects your chemical balance. If you do run into a persistent problem, that information can help a pool expert diagnose your problem.

  • 1
    Not all tablets add stabilizer. Ones that us Dichlor or Trichlor do. (Some shock products use Dichlor and Trichlor, so be careful.) Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 16:47
  • @Steve Jackson, the correct link is: poolcalculator.com Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 3:49

If you do not have trees or other things that put debris in the pool, it is not necessary to run the pump all the time. You can install a timer on the electric line to the pool pump and set it to run less. This will save on your electric costs and increase the life of the pump. The amount of time you have to run it a day depends on the conditions.


I removed our pool cause the maintenance just wasn't worth it - especially when the liner died and I learned it would take about a grand to replace it, but this is what I do remember.

Any local swimming pool supply store will sell testing kits and the necessary chemicals. They will also be able to tell you what chemicals are used depending on the results of each test.

Regularly you will test for PH level and add chemicals to either increase or decrease the alkalinity. You'll also test for proper chlorine levels to keep the water sanitary.

In the beginning of the season you'll shock the pool - which is to really hit it with a LOT of chlorine, not electricity.

You won't add anything to the water for the pump - but your pump may need separate maintenance. You'll want to regularly clear the pump's filters, and IME the pumps wear out too damn fast since they're always on.

  • No kidding. I estimate that my swimming/maintenance time ratio is somewhere near 10/1
    – JohnFx
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 20:22

My advice to you would be to pay a professional to come to your house and go through the maintenance process with you. He'll look at things like what type of pool you have, what type of sanitizer you should use, what type of filtration system you have, whether you need to winterize your pool, etc. He'll show you how to use the pool vacuum and/or the pool cleaner. He'll show you how to backwash your filter if you need to and clean all the skimmer and pump baskets. Nobody here can really give you an accurate answer without more information. Do not ask for advice from a pool store. They will try to sell you every chemical they can whether you need it or not.

I'm surprised at how much time people spend maintaining their pools. I spend about 15-60 minutes once a week checking my levels and maintaining my pool. Checking every day is overkill since you need to wait about 24 hours after making an adjustment to any one level.


Short and sweet answer = Pool Chlorinator.

this will convert the salt (which you add to the pool +/- 3 times a year) into a small trickle feed of Chlorine which will keep the chlorine levels optimal throughout the year.

The biggest effort spent on a pool is in keeping the levels constant (spikes in either high or low levels are not good)

Spend a little upfront and invest in either a self cleaning or manual chlorinator. You will then be required to rinse and clean the pool filter every so often and clean the weir with leaves on a weekly basis (depending on surrounding trees)

Get opinions from friends who have installed one, i am sure their feedback will be good.

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